Flying Start is on track to raise a milestone £25million during 2020, the partnership’s 10-year anniversary

BA PEOPLE • December 2019

The Guru: Holly Gray

Holly Gray
Holly Gray

Community Investment Manager

British Airways has been giving travellers that out-of-office feeling for 100 years, but its positive impact goes much further than a holiday buzz. Thanks to the airline’s Community Investment Team, managed by Holly Gray, BA invests in charitable projects on a global scale

How would you describe your job?

I oversee British Airways’ community investment programme, which means investing resources from the business – and funds raised by our wonderful colleagues and customers – into charitable projects that aim to have a positive impact on the lives of those in the wider community in the places we fly to, both in the UK and internationally. 

Where does the money go?

We invest in projects across three pillars. First, ensuring that children and young people have the chance to fulfil their potential, through our flagship Flying Start programme with Comic Relief. Second is supporting communities in times of crisis, through our partnership with the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) and other aid agencies. The final pillar focuses on supporting our colleagues to help causes that may be close to them personally.

Describe your average working day

On any given day I can be supporting the team with planning a whole variety of fundraising activities, setting up contactless donation boxes in lounges (pictured below), reviewing project information, planning communications content and meeting with external partners such as Comic Relief and the DEC – it’s quite varied!

Has there been a favourite project so far?

Mobilising support for vital response efforts for communities devastated in times of humanitarian disaster was a big part of my job before joining BA. Now, being part of an airline, we can support these communities in a really tangible way – such as when Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas, we were able to support the relief effort by flying out aid workers and lifesaving supplies to help those affected. These kind of efforts make me very proud. 

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What have been your other proudest moments?

I’m always proud when I meet individual BA staff from our 6,000-plus network of Champions who support community work across the business. In May this year, we had a very special visit from HRH the Queen. It was amazing to share with her the work we do, but I was so pleased that a number of these Champions could join us. There’s never enough we can do to recognise our colleagues who go above and beyond for charity.

Are there any exciting new partnerships ahead?

We’ve recently launched a partnership with the British Red Cross called ‘Kindness Travels’. Large-scale crises hit the global headlines, but crises in one form or another are affecting families every day. This partnership focuses on supporting communities in the UK, where the British Red Cross responds to an incident every four hours. Whether it’s a house fire or severe weather conditions, the practical and emotional assistance provided can be a vital lifeline.


Have you seen how the money helps?

Yes. I recently had the privilege of visiting projects supported by Flying Start funds in Mumbai. I met a lot of young people, many of whom live and work in very challenging conditions on the city’s streets, who had been supported by Comic Relief partners to take part in sports-based projects, as as a way of enabling them to develop confidence and life skills. One girl, Arti, now aged 20, had gone on to be employed as a sports coach for one of the projects in which she initially took part.

What’s next for Flying Start?

Next year will be the 10th anniversary of launching our Flying Start programme and we have lots of exciting plans to mark the occasion. We’re well on track to hit an incredible fundraising milestone of £25m, which will be a real moment to celebrate. We’ve invested £1m of these funds in a Comic Relief partner organisation, mothers2mothers, supporting early childhood development and the prevention of HIV transmission in South Africa and Ghana. The work in Ghana, as just one example, aims to reach more the 5,000 mothers and children; 2020 will see this work getting properly underway.

To donate to Flying Start today, click here

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